Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Promise Purified

Through the calling out and setting apart of the descendants of Abraham as a new nation (Israel), God is modeling His plans and intentions for a Kingdom community. He begins the community with a promise to Abraham. He perfects that Kingdom community in the crucible of 430 years in Egypt. He then purifies the community, in an effort to make that community His Kingdom model, by giving them 40 years in a wilderness.

Imagine 600,000 plus men with their wives, children, belongings, animals, etc., leaving Egypt and heading to Canaan. If we assumed one wife per man and 3 to 4 children per family, that would be around 2 to 3 million people in the procession. It would normally be about two week journey to Mt. Horeb (the mid-way point) and another 10 to 14 days to Kadesh Barnea, the beginning of the promised land Canaan. Allotting for more time due to the size and organizational needs of moving so many people and goods, let's say it would take them approximately one to two months to get to the Promised Land.

However, due to the disobedience and stiff-necks of the Israelites, God chose to have them wander in the deserts of the Sinai peninsula for 40 years. Later we learn that this was a time where God refined the nation of Israel through fire. It was during this time they learned the ways of warfare. It was a time that a whole generation of rebels passed away. It was also a time in which God taught Israel (the nation) to learn how to be totally dependent upon Him. In the desert, there was nothing to support 3 million people for 4 days let alone 40 years. And yet, God blessed the Israelites ad watched over them through their forty year journey where they did not lack anything. (Deuteronomy 2:7) Even their clothes and footwear did not wear out during this time. (Deuteronomy 29:5)

The Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are excellent summaries of what happened and the laws given to the Israelites through the time Moses led them out of Egypt and to Canaan. These books chronicle the journey, the constant grumblings and rebellion of the people, the intercession of Moses and the punishment and subsequent restoration by God of this strange Kingdom community known as Israel. It moreover shows us how God shapes His people into His unique community through love, discipline, hardships, rewards and even plainly giving to them His expectations of them as His set apart community. He gives them His law - perfect, sweet and refreshing to the soul - through Moses, His servant. He provides for them as they try and follow and He disciplines - harshly yet justly - when they disobey. All of this is done in His plan to purify and perfect this Kingdom community.

Would they become a perfect and completely pure community? Of course not. They were to be however a chosen people, a holy nation a people belonging to God so that they might proclaim and declare His praises to all the other nations.

How would this happen and what would it look like?

Next blog...The Promise Purified: Part 2!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Promise Perfected - Part 3

So, we are talking about God brining about his promised Kingdom community on earth. He has provided models, examples if you will, of what He desires for community through his own person (One God, three persons), the Garden of Eden and creation, and the plan for family. He then begins to establish His next model of community on earth by the calling and setting apart of a nation of people through the descendants of Abraham. This people is to become a nation known as Israel.

Israel, his sons and families go down to Egypt to survive a terrible famine. Joseph, one of the sons of Israel has gone ahead by God's design to preserve the family of Israel. But Israel, Joseph and his children pass away. A new Pharaoh comes to power who doesn't know Joseph and begins to enslave the Israelites out of fear.

God's plan was to use Egypt as a crucible to form Israel into a nation. At the appointed time, he raises His leader, Moses, to come and help deliver Israel from its bondage in Egypt. Moses was a baby that was cast into the waters to die by Pharaoh's command. However, he is saved by Pharaoh's daughter, raised in Pharaoh's court and as a young man, begins to see the plight of his own people, Israel, and their misery.

Through a series of events where Moses kills a man (to protect a Hebrew), Moses flees for his life to the land of Midian. He meets and marries his wife, Zipporah, and becomes a shepherd for the flock of his new father-in-law, Jethro (Exodus 2:11-21). During that time while Moses is in Midian, the Israelites continued to call out to God in misery in their slavery and the Bible says that God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them (Exodus 2:23-25).

God then fulfills His promise to the community of Israel by calling Moses (from a burning bush) and sending him back to Egypt to lead Israel out of Egypt and back to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Through an amazing story and great events (including more oppression, plagues and miracles), Moses, assisted by his brother Aaron, confront Pharaoh and the leaders of Egypt and gain permission to lead Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 4:18-12:42). Thus, at the end of 430 years (to the very day) all of the house of Israel left Egypt and began their journey (a whole another adventure) back to the land promised by God to their forefathers. They were seventy in all as the sons of Jacob when they went to Egypt. They were "about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children" when they left Egypt 430 years later.

A new nation, Israel, was born! A new community of God was initiated to be a showpiece for all other nations. They became a nation in the crucible of Egypt. They would now be forged into a cohesive community in the fire of the desert.

Next post - The Promise Purified

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Promise Perfected - Part 2

God heard the cries of the Israelites as the spent over 400 years in Egypt. Life had started pretty good with Joseph, one of the 12 sons of Israel, in high favor with the King of Egypt. But Joseph had passed away and a new Pharaoh arose who did not know about Joseph and the Israelites were oppressed, being forced into slave labor. The fear of the Egyptians rose to the point that Pharaoh gave the order to have every boy born to the nation of Israel to be killed by throwing them in the Nile river.

Into this dark time of Israel's history, God sent a deliverer. To the house of Levi, one of Israel's 12 sons, a baby was born. And due to the decree by Pharaoh, the baby at three months old was put into a basket-boat and placed floating in the Nile. The baby boy's sister wast instructed to watch from a distance.

By God's design, the daughter of Pharaoh went down to the Nile to bathe and she spotted the basket among the river reeds and sent her slaves to retrieve it. Opening it and seeing the baby crying, she felt compassion for him and took him in as her son. The baby's sister appeared out of her hiding place and volunteered to find a woman to nurse the baby (which happened to be his own mother). So, Pharaoh's daughter offered compensation to the baby's mother in order for her to care for her own baby! Pharaoh's daughter named the baby "Moses" meaning "drawn out of the water." God protected Moses, blessed him and planned to use him to respond to the suffering of His people, Israel.

Moses would grow up in the courts of Pharaoh yet knowing all along that he was different. He would also soon learn that his life would be intricately linked to the slave nation known in Egypt as Israel.

Next, the Promise Perfected, part 3: The calling and setting apart of Moses for the task...